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11.16.04

Letter from Santa Clara

The A-, B-, & C-Vitamin Societies

By Bill Costley

Back in the late '60s, I used to ask myself whether I wanted to live in:

(A) a just society, or,

(B) just one where my activity would really make a difference.

{flashback:} During WW2, I was born into a working-class, unionist Democratic household in a single-company-dominated factory-city. My refusal to go to Vietnam (stated early, even before it was official, on my birthday in 1960, the day I registered at the local draft board in a building where my uncle was the navy recruiter) seriously eroded my relationship with the political arrangement of my birth. Yes, I was politically connected; my antiwar stance shattered that, eventually ejecting me from what I had naively imagined was an A-society into a B-one.

You know what the Vietnam Era was like. I spent it as a member of a tiny political minority, even in Massachusetts, where I was born and raised. That a spectacular popular front floated me to the crest of its wave came as quite a surprise to me. Because the Vietnam war was perceived as an unmitigated disaster, after 1975 I dared to return to my home city to co-found a radical-arts core-group of a poet, painter, and playwright (me). We soon succeeded beyond my wildest imaginings! We're now brought back each year to perform at the local state community college which didn't even exist during my youth there. We're considered the living continuation of my home city's long radical tradition, still embodied in a living radical poet my father knew growing up there.

Nonetheless, upon Ronald Reagan's re-election, I left the usa (for Scotland) where I lived out that B-society scenario in the country my father had emigrated from as a child, & then came back to once again live out the B-society scenario here. Still the B-society, I thought. Still the struggle.

Now, at 62, having just moved to northern California, the appeal of the A-society is coming back to me. Just where is that Just Society? I still ask myself, still willing to live in it. Am I in it in the contemporary California Republic, or is this just the temporary State of California, in a transitional C-society? It is just Vitamin-C rich?